You can scour the corners, shake the dust from directories, consult the agencies and agents that have helped you in the past, but the search string returns empty as they murmur their regrets. Michael Caine’s on holidays; the Marvel universe imploded and won’t reboot till Thursday; the President’s top-secret line is ringing but there’s no one picking up. What happens when those dreaded words come through? Darkness has returned.
It is when we’re at our utmost in the direst of straits that he appears to us. He stands be-caped and masked with his sturdy metal lunchbox and his heroic torch (batteries not included). And at his teeth that grim and grimaced motto, a reminder and admonishment to the frightened people that there is no need to hide when it’s dark outside. He is always ready. His lunch is ham and cheese.
Avast! Into the Land of Darkness, that twisted, tortured landscape. Away! At the back of the closet where the nightmares dwell he dives into the midnight portal, his blue-spiked hair streaming bravely from his blue-skinned scalp. Aha! En garde! Geronimo! Glance left, then right, but no time to waste — he stops and waits for no man, no, nor supernatural fiend. The hero tricks the talking trees and frees the captive carrot, rides the breathless minecart through the labyrinth beneath and emerges with a golden nugget and last week’s missing sock. The hero grows hungry. He pauses for a snack.
The trials come quite quickly now, the Land of Darkness mustering its forces to resist his rude intrusion. Stirred from stony slumber, the guardian awakens on the bridge, and from the woods sharp shadows stream in grisly ranks to meet him. Oh, the battle shall be long and bloody, but they will prevail in the end through sheer weight of numbers if nothing else. Settle in and hold fast the ranks! Prepare the ambuscade! Where has he gone?
Out far past his bedtime, the hero snuck around them and into Darkness’ stronghold! He’s always been far better at drawing trees than battle lines. Besides, his crayons are buried somewhere deep beneath the clothes heaped upon the floor, and now he’s after Darkness in the snugness of his home. Our hero’s out of sandwiches; the hourglass his parents keep has dumped its final grain.
Now! Inside the sanctum, Lord Darkness’ defenses lay in tatters or ignored behind, and he swirls his cape for dramatic effect as he stalks towards that final imposing door. He knocks and there’s no answer. An endless mound of keys is only a distraction and he sweeps them aside contemptuously, pries open the little cabinet that may as well be marked “Please wipe your feet before you enter”. The key inside is burnished brass.
Breath and contemplation. A grumble in his stomach signals that his quest is at an end. Hello he calls Darkness, I’m here as the hero charges in, but Darkness is cowering beneath his bedsheets and swears he didn’t mean it, really, that he just wanted a friend…
Their game of cheese and crackers on the ancient battered chessboard stretches out until just morning. The hero yawns and bids farewell to Darkness, and the land is safe once more. Pajama Sam flops into bed, pulls the covers up, and sleeps.